Friday, 30 September 2011

M337 TMA04 back and Hume

So got my last TMA for M337 back overall average in the high seventies so looking for grade 2 pass if the exam goes well. Have to say don't really feel I own the subject in the way I do for M208 where my average was in the mid nineties. Still we will see. Not long now D day or should it be E day is the 11th October Complex Analysis in the morning and Pure Maths in the afternoon. This weekend will be exclusively on Complex Analysis revision I hope to work through two papers thoroughly.

Anyway started my Hume course last night. The focus is on Hune's enquiry which is a smaller version of his magnum opus A Treatise on Human Nature. Hume attempts to apply the experimental method so successfully applied by Newton to the study of human nature, in a way it's a precursor to both psychology and sociology and it is arguable that from these perspectives that Hume has been superseded by developments in say cognitive psychology, or sociology. However Hume has an importance in establishing the limits of human knowledge, which Kant was able to develop further.

Hume as is well known is an empiricist, for him the rationalist speculation of Descartes or Leibniz over exagerates what can be achieved by reason alone. They sought to try to base human knowledge on what could be proved purely by reason in order to arrive at absolutely certain knowledge. Hume and other empiricists such as Locke  argue that what cannot be based on human experience, is speculation and they would argue the dangers of exaggerating what can be achieved purely by the use of reason. A bit like the debate that still goes on today between Platonists in mathematicians for whom mathematics uncovers the hidden secrets of a world of which the empirical reality is a mere copy. In contrast to  those who see us using mathematics as an aid to understanding, but would not make want to make the mistake of assuming that to every mathematical concept there must correspond an element of reality.

Hume begins his enquiry by contrasting what he calls the easy philosophy with more abstruse philosophy. The 'easy' philosophy purports to be  an extension of common sense and attempts to describe the importance of say virtue in ways which can easily be understood. By the use of poetry or literature. In Hume's day novelists such as Addison or the poet Pope would be adherents to such philosophy, in our day think of Alain de Boton.

Hume does not dispute the popularity of such philosophy but 'edifying philosophy' has it's limits and indeed there is a tedency for those who prefer 'edifying' philosophy to denigrate the more abstract philosophy because it is obscure and can only be understood by a few people. Hume offers three main arguments against this

1) A knowledge of abstract knowledge can help poets and artists, for example a painter gains much from a knowledge of anatomy.

2) Abstract knowledge satisfies human curioisity and should be encouraged even if it does not benefit mankind directly. Somewhat optimisitically, Hume claims that politicians and lawyers would benefit from a study of abstract philosophy as they would have a better understanding of how government works. Here Hume approaches Plato's ideas that the guardians of the state should be trained in abstract philosophy.

3) Perhaps his strongest argument is that quite often rational principles are misused as a cloak to justify all sorts of superstition. Indeed it is quite surprising that so called analytic philosophers of religion such as eg Plantiga or Peter Geach, see their main task to use modern techniques of analytical philosophy to maintain standard Christian doctrine no matter how obnoxious. For example the specious justifications often given for why God if he is all powerful and knowing allows evils such as Auszchwitz or Tsunami's to happen. (I might sound off about this in another post). For Hume the only way such specious reasoning can be countered is to master the abstruse metaphysics so that it's weaknesses can be exposed for all to see. Hume offers the hope that by enquiring seriously into the nature of Human Understanding it can be shown by an exact analysis of the powers and capacities of the Human mind that it is not fitted for such remote and abstruse subjects. He hopes to undermine the foundations of obscure metaphysics which has in the past served only to shelter superstition and absurdity.

In the next section Hume discusses the Origin of Ideas of which I will give a basic summary of next week.
If I get time this weekend I shall as promised review Richard II. I'll be watching Henry IV part 1 this weekend.   

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on the two OCAS scores - very impressive results.

    I can't speak for M337 but it's so easy on M208 to lose lots of points if the rigour isn't absolutely there. A score in the mid 90s is simply exceptional.

    Good luck with your revision.